INTERVIEW Writer Ira Trivedi, a panellist for The Hindu Lit for Life 2014, talks about her latest book and the relevance of exploring sex and marriage in modern-day urban India
She made waves ten years ago, when her first semi-autobiographical book What Would You Do To Save The World? became a sort of backstage pass to the world of beauty pageants in India. Ten years down the line, Ira Trivedi has published three books and awaiting the release of her first non-fiction project titled India in Love: Sex, Marriage and Intimacy in Our Cities . A panellist for The Hindu Lit for Life 2014, Trivedi talks about the relevance and importance of exploring sex and marriage in modern-day urban India.
So far, there hasn’t been much written about your forthcoming novel. Tell us a little bit about it.
I haven’t spoken about the book in an interview process, and apart from The Hindu Lit for Life, I’m being particular about not participating in other festivals. It’s called India in Love: Sex, Marriage and Intimacy in Our Cities . This is the time when our country’s entire social fabric and structure is undergoing a change. The sex revolution involves a change in attitudes, wherein sexual behaviour, laws, identity, they are all changing. Of course, there is a dark side to this revolution, one that brings out sexual violence and becomes really pertinent with regards to what is happening in our country today. Marriage revolution implies a shift from the norm of arranged marriage, and people choosing to marry for love.
And the voice you’ve used in the book? Is it one authorial voice or different perspectives?
I’ve collected 400 narratives, a mix of personal and analytical responses. For each topic I explore, I’ve got stories to represent it, whether it’s a young male student and his attitude towards losing his virginity, a young gay man or a female prostitute. My personal experiences have driven the book too, but I’ve turned down the volume on them because they sort of paled in comparison to the stories I heard. The book also includes opinions from experts worldwide on these subjects.
Was conducting research for a book exploring what have been largely private and personal subjects easy?
I think being a young woman really helped. I don’t know if a man could have done this. People really do want to talk about these subjects but they prefer to tell their stories to someone non-threatening, and being a young woman helps. If I was an older woman or man, it might have been impossible. It also helped that I targeted the urban middle class and while there were ups and downs, I was largely talking to a young population.
After three fiction novels, you’ve moved on to a very current, relevant non-fiction. Tell us a little about shifting genres?
This book is different because it’s a major turning point in my career. To write a book like this, you need skillsets that I felt I already had to an extent — research, investigation and analysis. I knew how to get people to talk because writing fiction had helped me do that. What I concentrated on doing with this book was upping the ante on me as a writer.
Three books down, do you think you’ve been able to shake off the model-turned-writer tag finally?
The Miss India pageant was 10 years ago! It’s been such a long time but somehow, unfortunately or fortunately, it’s still important to people. Actually, the Miss India pageant was a one off for me. I was never a model or anything. I did the pageant, wrote a book and got the thing over and done with. I was always going to be a writer. Though I know maybe, if I hadn’t participated in that pageant, I might not even have become a writer. It gave me a lot of experiences and taught me a lot.